I joined every Facebook mom group I could find in the months before my son was born.
I didn’t discriminate. Desperate for information, community and the online company of other people who vomited into their mouths, I eagerly became a member of any local group that popped up, no matter the purpose, emphasis or parenting style.
As a result, I currently belong to two baby-wearing groups (despite the fact that attempting to “wear” my robust child usually ends with the realization that one of us has peed our pants a little), a “no crying it out” sleep community (I cracked after month seven of zombie life and sleep trained my son #noregrets), a group for “crunchy” moms (don’t tell them my son ate his first deep fry last weekend), a group for “frugal” moms (yet I’ve never couponed, nor do I have a Costco membership), a group for working moms (no one has time to post in that one), two “buy, sell, trade” groups (why won’t anyone buy my freaking stack of outgrown baby overalls?!), two toddler behaviour groups (working up the courage to ask them about my one-year-old’s new habit of biting my face while laughing maniacally), a play date group (for another community. But I like to imagine I could meet up with y’all for library time followed by coffee), and a group for moms with nothing in common other than having babies the same age as mine.
Opinions on sleep, food, teething relief, chemicals, toys, discipline — pretty much anything even mildly child-related — vary wildly from group to group.
But there is one topic that never fails to bring everyone together: the necessity of (and search for) cleaning and meal services for moms who work outside the home.
On this, and this alone, we appear to be a united front.
To keep my head above water, the most common advice I received from other moms was to pay someone.
I’m quite aware that there’s a certain level of privilege that allows my circle of mom acquaintances to entertain the thought, and that there are plenty of parents out there who can’t afford to hire someone to help and are just trying to make it work however they can. And some parents are working long hours cleaning other people’s homes and taking care of other people’s kids for a living (they should be paid more for this, while I’m at it), and they’re also doing whatever they can to survive the daily pull of children versus work.
But — across backgrounds, professions and geography — never have I personally seen a group so readily accept house cleaning and meal services as necessary for survival as I have with working moms.
In fact, when I was heading back work to this fall and wondering how — HOW?! — to keep my head above water, the most common advice I received from other moms was to pay someone to clean my house once a month (just often enough to keep the mould and mice at bay) and to subscribe to some sort of healthy meal service (because we might be able to live off drive-through burgers on our way home from work, but our children probably shouldn’t).
We’ve been dubbed the “do it all” generation. Millennial moms, based on what they see online (you’re no help, Pinterest) and the many roles they play in today’s society (Career woman! Entrepreneur! Blogger! Mom of two organically fed children!), feel pressured to be “perfect” like no generation before us. Nearly 80 per cent of millennial moms stress the importance of being the “perfect mom,” according to BabyCenter, which is a higher percentage than mothers of the Generation X and Baby Boomer generations.
About three quarters of women with young children are now part of the employed workforce, compared to 39 per cent in 1976, according to Statistics Canada. But a recent study from Pew Research Center found that today’s young moms are also spending more time with their kids compared to previous generations.
Which is lovely, but this generation of women also spends on average an hour commuting to and from work each day (likely more if she also has to pick her kids up from daycare), spends more time on social media (mostly due to an increase in time spent in online parenting communities, according to BabyCenter), and reports higher levels of work stress.
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You know what that doesn’t leave much time for in any given day? Cooking the nourishing, non-processed, sustainable, Insta-worthy meals we feel pressured to serve our children each night. And scrubbing the mildew out of the damn tub.
Meanwhile, only half of millennial moms say they live nearby their extended families (and even if they do, their parents are less likely to be retired). Grandma can’t help us get dinner on the table, kids, because she, too, is busting her ass at work.
Recently, a friend of mine (who I’ve always admired for her healthy habits) confessed that she pays a teenager to do all her meal prep on weekends. When I complimented another friend on the delicious chili she served at a neighourhood party last week, she admitted that she hires someone to cook a month worth of freezable meals at a time.
Confessing that you need help — especially paid help — is often seen at best as an unnecessary luxury and at worst as an admission of defeat.
And just the other day, a mom looking for an affordable cleaning service in one of my Facebook groups elicited 30 helpful recommendations from commenters.
It seems nearly every young, working mom I know has a secret weapon, and by “secret” I mean we don’t otherwise talk about it. Because confessing that you need help — especially paid help — is often seen at best as an unnecessary luxury and at worst as an admission of defeat.
Let’s change that. No one, regardless of their available funds, should be ashamed to ask for help.
I needed help. For a year after my son was born, my “village” included a lactation consultant (my baby had reflux), sleep consultant (my baby didn’t sleep), pelvic floor physiotherapist (my baby destroyed my vaheen), and public health nurse (all of which made me extremely anxious).
Some of these services were free, available to anyone who needed them. Some of them weren’t, but that doesn’t mean I needed them any less.
Now that I’m back at work (and, predictably, living in squalor while using the precious weekend hours I could be playing with my son to bake and freeze lasagnas for the week), I might expand my village to include the lady who cooked all that chili. I’ve already asked my friend for her phone number.
And I’m not (all that) ashamed to admit it.
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Author: Natalie Stechyson